Surviving the surge: Evaluation of early impact of COVID-19 on inpatient pharmacy services at a community teaching hospital

Am J Health Syst Pharm. 2020 May 29;zxaa189. doi: 10.1093/ajhp/zxaa189. Online ahead of print.


Purpose: The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has presented novel challenges to healthcare systems; however, an analysis of the impact of the pandemic on inpatient pharmacy services has not yet been conducted.

Methods: Results of an observational assessment of operational and clinical pharmacy services at a community teaching hospital during the first weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic are presented. Service outcomes of the inpatient pharmacy were evaluated from February 1 to April 8, 2020. Outcomes during the weeks preceding the first COVID-19 admission (February 1 to March 11, 2020) and during the pandemic period (March 12 to April 8, 2020) were compared. Evaluated outcomes included daily order verifications, clinical interventions, and usage of relevant medications. An exploratory statistical analysis was conducted using Student's t test.

Results: During the pandemic period, the number of new order verifications decreased from approximately 5,000 orders per day to 3,300 orders per day (P < 0.01), a reduction of 30% during the first 4 weeks of the pandemic compared to the weeks prior. Average daily pharmacokinetic dosing consults were reduced in the pandemic period (from 82 to 67; P < 0.01) compared to the prepandemic period; however, total daily pharmacist interventions did not differ significantly (473 vs 456; P = 0.68). Dispensing of hydroxychloroquine, azithromycin, enoxaparin, and sedative medications increased substantially during the pandemic period (P < 0.01 for all comparisons).

Conclusion: The operational and clinical requirements of an inpatient pharmacy department shifted considerably during the first weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic. Pharmacy departments must be adaptable in order to continue to provide effective pharmaceutical care during the pandemic.

Keywords: clinical; coronavirus; health system; operational; pharmacy.